PARIS (AP) South America won a chance to gain a fifth berth at the 2006 World Cup at the expense of Oceania, which again may not send any team at all.
After failing to muster support for its plan to expand the World Cup field by four nations to 36, South America's governing body withdrew its proposal Saturday.
The executive committee of soccer's world governing body then gave South America, which has four guaranteed spots, the chance to win the fifth in a playoff.
''Things are so clear and simple with 32 teams,'' FIFA president Sepp Blatter said. ''Give two more here, two more there, sounds easy.''
He said a 36-nation field was impractical ''when you have to consider the details, the practical organization.'' The committee also said the field would not be increased for 2010.
The executive committee had voted Dec. 17 to give Oceania a guaranteed berth and take away South America's playoff spot. Saturday's vote to reverse that decision was 22-1, with Oceania dissenting and Blatter abstaining.
Ahongalu Fusimalohi of Tonga, Oceania's only executive committee member, said FIFA had made his region a ''laughingstock.''
''We're being pushed around as if we never did exist,'' he said. ''If it was so right seven months ago, how can it be so wrong seven months later?''
Fusimalohi walked out of the meeting in protest along with Australia's Basil Scarsella, the president of the Oceania Football Confederation.
Scarsella, a nonvoting observer of the executive committee, called the matter a ''politically driven decision that's got nothing to do with common sense or the development of football.''
In the past, the winner of Oceania qualifying always met a team from another continent in a home-and-home playoff, and no team from Oceania has played in the World Cup since New Zealand in 1982.
In the last tournament, Australia lost the playoff 3-1 to Uruguay, the No. 5 team in South American qualifying.
South America had been angered by December's allocation.
''The decision shows quality rules,'' said Argentina's Julio Grondona, an executive committee member.
FIFA didn't decide how the playoff system for the 2006 World Cup would work. Scarsella said Oceania would ask that instead of a simple home-and-home series, the playoff be combined with the one already scheduled between the No. 4 team from the North and Central American and Caribbean region and the No. 5 team from Asia.
Blatter said the decision was made partly because of infighting among officials of Soccer Australia and the ''poor performance'' of New Zealand in the Confederations Cup. New Zealand, the Oceania champion, went 0-3 and was outscored 11-1.
Oceania already had agreed to sponsorship deals based on the berth, Fusimalohi said.
Under the allotment approved by the executive committee in December, Europe was awarded 14 spots, including host Germany, a drop from 15 at the 2002 tournament.
Africa remained at five teams, and Asia stayed at four teams with the chance to get another berth in a playoff. North and Central America and the Caribbean, which had three spots, was given the chance for a fourth through a playoff with the No. 5 Asian team.
In other moves, FIFA approved the six sites selected by the U.S. Soccer Federation for this year's Women's World Cup, to be played from Sept. 20 to Oct. 12: Carson, Calif.; Columbus, Ohio; Foxboro, Mass.; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; and Washington. FIFA also decided the 2005 Club World Championship will be played outside Europe, which could lead to the United States hosting that event.
Associated Press Writer Eric Nunez contributed to this report
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